×

Khruangbin & Leon Bridges Explore a Darker Side of Their Collaboration With ‘Texas Moon’: EP Review

Khruangbin Leon Bridges
Courtesy Dead Oceans

On the face of it, Grammy-winning R&B singer Leon Bridges and left-field alt-rock Khruangbin, led by guitar wizard Mark Speer, seem a very unlikely combination. But Bridges started pushing the boundaries of the vintage soul sounds of his 2015 debut, “Coming Home,” almost immediately, veering off into more organic, esoteric directions with the two albums he’s released since then — particularly his latest, “Gold-Diggers Sound” — and collaborating with everyone from Kacey Musgraves and John Mayer to Bun B and the Avalanches. Meanwhile, Khruangbin continued to refine their largely instrumental style of groove-based rock, occasionally adding vocals that, frankly, often feel like an afterthought.

Yet the two acts, who first met and began working up songs when they toured together in 2018, had two key things in common: They’re all proud Texans, with Bridges hailing from Fort Worth and the band from Houston, and a taste for musical exploration. The first results, 2020’s “Texas Sun” EP, sounded like both acts, but added up to much more than the sum of the parts — it sounded like a new band, with Bridges’ warm voice and melodies meshing beautifully with the band’s intricate yet smooth rhythms.

Naturally, they teamed up again, and even more naturally, the new release is an EP titled “Texas Moon.” Calmer and a bit moodier than the debut, it finds the two bringing out things in their sounds that hadn’t really been there before — a slow neo-‘70s funk sound from Speer on the opening track “Doris,” and a faster one from the group on the following track “B-Side.” But the high point is the cheerfully upbeat “Chocolate Hills.” The group almost immediately brings it back down with the low-key “Father Father” and the easy groove of the closer “Mariella.”

Combined, the two EPs make a warm and well-rounded album with two distinct sides. And both Bridges and the band say they played to continue the collaboration — hopefully the next move is a full album soon.